Art, performance, music
and remote Swedish nature

The small Swedish island festival of PLX Tjärö is leading up to its second year, and I sit down with one of its organizers to learn more about what they have planned for this year.

Published: August 14, 2018
Words: J.Scott Stratton & Alexander Höglund
Festival Info: plxtjaro.com/
Ticket Sales: Buy Tickets

I think it is safe to assume that the festival circuit is a natural part of modern existence for a large percentage of the people born prior to Woodstock.

Every country has their own flavour of mass congregation under the premise of ingesting substance, culture, and music. And those flavours have become quite varied over the years.

For every psychedelic Burning Man, there is an inner-city South by Southwest. For every Roskilde, there is a Heartland Festival. For every Oxygen Festival, there is an Electric Picnic. You get the picture.

What I find exciting about the growth of the festival circuit, is that the competition is driving innovation. It’s moved beyond music, to simple encompass experience. Other art forms now have a place amongst the sea of Welly’s and cheap tents.

This brings me to a small festival that I was introduced to earlier this year, PLX Tjaro, which very much looking forward to experiencing – taking place on Swedish Archipelago.

Now if you unfamiliar with the Swedish, its a collection of about 30,000 islands between Sweden and Finland – remote, breath-taking, and about as “getting back to nature” as one can get.

PLX Tjaro is a small festival of art, performance and music which is leading up to its second year. It takes hosted on one of these little Swedish isles, and according to Alexander Höglund, an artist and organizer of the event, the festival utilized both the nature and the island’s history to drive the conceptual and narrative experience of the festival.

PLX Tjaro is coming up at the end of August, so sat down with Alexander over a coffee in Malmø, Sweden, to learn more about this interesting little island festival.

PLX Tjaro festival for Blacklisted Copenhagen

To begin with, can you give me a little history of how the festival came to be?

It all began around 2004/ 2005-ish when we did our first dance event. A classic two day-rave party in the stunning nature of Karlshamn, Blekinge in Sweden. We were a group of friends in our early 20s with a passion for the art and music scene, who just loved to dance and organize events.

This yearly party became a training ground and a springboard to our later concepts and performative works. The parties were also just an opportunity to hang out and be creative together with friends from school.

The years went by. Friends got educated, got kids, apartments, moved abroad and came back. We matured. In 2015, PLX opened a temporary art museum, KTK in Malmö. During an intense phase, a 600 m2 old dental practice turned into a living art organism. Artists, musicians and others, from Sweden and abroad were invited for numerous art shows set up as ongoing performative works.

The making of a museum marked a critical learning period for the development of the PLX culture; we embraced the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk. The project culminated in 2017 with the 10 days long performative work “Extraordinary Life Center”. About 30 artists investigated the concept of what constitutes a life that certainly is extraordinary.

Over the years the PLX group (in various constellations) has created events and performative works that in some essence carries the experience from rave, nature and artist residencies.

We wanted to experience art, not look at it or try to understand it but entirely live it. Last year we had the opportunity to make use of our experience, passion and broad network to once again return to the fantastic and magical nature of Blekinge and the surrounding archipelago.

A chance arose to make a festival at an island and the format seemed to fit our ambition to create works that are all reaching. The island represented isolation and the potential for a truly beautiful escapist experience for us and for the audience.

PLX Tjaro festival for Blacklisted Copenhagen

When we last spoke, you mentioned that each year the festival is loosely built around a concept. Can you tell me about this year?

We have formed the theme for this year’s festival around two points of subject matter – the history of the island dating back to the early bronze age and astrology. The ceremonies and rituals of dancing and experiencing togetherness on the isle are metaphorically similar to the feasts and events which have taken place on the island since ancient times.

On the island, there are old sites and carvings in the stone carrying a resemblance to our contemporary mystical practices such as astrology and beyond. This aesthetical approach is present in how we book our artists and performances, to festival design, to small fortune cookie texts on the festival wristband, and much more.

Rituals are often referred to in essentialist art theory as the “cradle to all art”, and rituals are certainly something we investigate in our practice.

There is a lot more than just music that is involved in PLX Tjaro. What lead you to also incorporate performance and visual arts into the festivities?

We like to view the festival as one piece of art entailing many different elements. Just like a movie includes imagery, dialogue, acting, music, sound effects, etc. – the festival is built with layers of experience.

For us, all parts of the festival are considered performative acts in the grander artwork. Music, picking up cigarette butts, taking care of the parking lot or making food we are all part of the inner workings of the experience.

When we book music acts and artist we make sure that they want to feel part of this approach to create the festival. Visual artists and performance artists are often trained in collaborative methods which suit the concept very well.

PLX Tjaro festival for Blacklisted Copenhagen

Getting away from the festival line up for a second, let’s talk about the nature? Tell me about this magical little island where the festival takes place?

The island, Tjärö, is a stunningly beautiful island in the Blekinge archipelago. Deciduous forest and rock formations cover the island. In the middle of the island, there are a large number of stone blocks that form small caves and passages.

The island is a nature reserve and is home to many rare flowers and plants. The microenvironments on the island are mysterious, intimate, and surprising.

This beautiful nature will be accentuated by subtle light installations and art installations that coexist with the nature experience. Many in the PLX crew grew up close to nature, and this landscape is dear to us and highly
inspirational.

You mentioned an interesting “festival-within-a-festival” performance from a German performance art collective. Something about a LARP taking place 800 years in the future? Can you tell me about that?

“Off-planet transhumanists must negotiate with Earth-bound survivors trying to sustain ‘nature’ and ancient cultures. Can they find common ground? Loan your body to someone travelling in time and discover the island with other eyes and a mission in mind.”

This is how the artist Carina Erdmann, Anna Kindermann and curator Bernard Vienat describes their LARP performance work that takes place during the festival. If PLX Tjärö is an escape from the everyday, this is works takes it one level further.

ÖRJÄT is set in the future in 2810 – when the earth has become uninhabitable. The only surviving humans are the so-called Martians – transhumanists who believe in an optimised technoid future – and the more rooted “Underearthians”, who worship the past.

Both have fled the Earth’s surface for new habitats where they have built divergent civilizations: the Martians to Mars and the Underearthians in a web of tunnel systems under the earth.

Their only agreement was to let the Earth’s surface rest so that it can recover, but they are in sporadic contact, as the Martians still depend on the rare-earth minerals that the Underearthians hold underground.

This is something that needs to be experienced to be understood.

I will put all the specific details for the festival at the lead of this article, but what would you recommend people bring when they attend the festival?

You will need to bring a tent to the festival, apart from that PLX will provide what you need.